You know your friend is in pain on the anniversary of a loved one's death, but how do you handle it? Simple acts of kindness---such as sending a note, doing the dishes for your friend, or listening to him or her vent---may be the best medicine for your friend's grief. Though your friend may not say it, knowing that someone cares about him and remembers his loved one can be the difference between a lonely anniversary and a day of loving and thoughtful remembering.
Send a small gift or a card to let your friend know that he is not alone in remembering his loved one. In the illness and death edition of How to Say It: When You Don't Know What to Say, by Robbie Miller Kaplan, one woman was comforted after the death of her husband by her daughter's surprises on each month's anniversary of his death, such as a scarf, a candy bar, or flowers.
Discuss with your friend happy memories shared with the late loved one. If you have photographs or videos of the person, view them with your friend. Don't be afraid to talk intimately with your friend about this loved one, even if it makes her emotional, as your friend may welcome this rare opportunity to openly discuss her memories. Laugh and enjoy your conversations--they don't always have to be serious, and laughter can relieve stress.
Listen to your friend vent. Sometimes it helps a grieving person to verbalise emotions and thoughts without interruption or immediate feedback. Lend an ear without responding. Don't try to reason with your grieving friend or reprimand his feelings of anger or guilt. He may be better able to let go of negative feelings if he is able to voice them without fear of judgment. At the same time, don't push him to talk about things he's not willing to share.
Allow your friend to cry. It is natural to assume that if you can stop her crying, you have succeeded in comforting your friend, but in fact crying is an essential part of the healing process. Don't be embarrassed by your friend's tears. Let her know it's OK to cry.
Do small favours for your friend without expecting thanks. Baking something special for your friend or doing the dishes for him can let him know that just for today, someone else is taking care of him and his priority is his grief.
Thank your friend for sharing his memories and emotions with you, and let him know you are happy to listen whenever he needs to talk.
Avoid saying clich�s like, "He's in a better place," or, "It's going to be OK," as these words seem automatic and thoughtless. Your friend may want to be alone. Respect her wishes, but leave with a quiet reminder that she can call you if she needs anything.